Mass mobile marketing campaigns: why basic tech works better

Mobile phones

The emerging markets mobile landscape does not, as yet, reflect those of more mature economies. Indeed, the smartphone penetration levels in a mid to high tier emerging economy still sit at approximately thirty percent. Moreover, the most popular mobile activities in those markets have nothing to do with downloading apps or making in-app purchases. To use the example of South Africa again, the most popular activity is still sending and receiving “Please Call Me” messages. Coupled with relatively high costs for data, the majority of people in these countries are economically unable to enjoy the world of smartphones and their zippy applications.

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This has a direct effect on mobile advertising campaigns. While mobile app developers are creating great things, there’s a large potential target market that is still not accessible through in-app or smartphone-focused advertising campaigns.

This means that, for many mobile application-focused marketing strategies, ignoring the lower levels of technologies, like SMS and USSD, can be detrimental to campaigns. As a technology, USSD is familiar to all mobile users, as it’s a facility that’s used to recharge prepaid airtime or data accounts. But perhaps the marketing and consumer participation aspects of it are not fully explored by mobile-focused agencies? With such a keen focus on application development, USSD is sometimes forgotten, yet, it has so much potential.

Moreover, legislation in a number of economies, like South Africa’s POPI Act, places a great number of restrictions and regulations on data collection of individual consumers or users.

Durban-based mobile digital agency Always Active (a division of AAT) is one company that understands this, and creates consumer-focused solutions for feature phone and basic phone users, which rely on stalwart mobile technologies like USSD and SMS.

In speaking with its Business Development Manager Alan Haarhoff, it’s apparent that Always Active it’s making further inroads into capturing consumer attention through the implementation of smart strategies using basic technologies that garner excellent results for companies.

A recent campaign for Fusion Juice included a USSD-based competition, which offered airtime as a reward for participants. Over a four month period, 1 563 185 entries were created, with one third of those being unique entries. Participation in the campaign grew from four percent in September to 39% by the end of December, when the campaign came to a close.

Popular KwaZulu-Natal newspaper Isolezwe ran a USSD campaign during March 2014, which involved a unique number printed on each copy of its publication. Readers dial a USSD number, enter their unique number and append a personal profile to it. Implemented on 1 March 2014, it had attracted just under 250 000 hits at the time of writing (24 March 2014).

Not only does USSD help reach the bottom of the pyramid (BoP), but it also helps companies stick within the regulations put forward by POPI, related to opt-in databases and client information privacy concerns. Moreover, companies can extract and explore a wealth of informative data about their users in an automated fashion, because of the real time visual data automatically created behind the scenes.

Is your company making full use of basic technologies like USSD in mobile marketing and advertising campaigns?

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